Afxentia to host next two rounds of Sunshine Cup

And they're off...

And they're off... (Image credit: Armin M. Küstenbrück)

The Macheras mountains and its singletrack trails are awaiting the Cyprus Sunshine Cup rounds two and three this weekend. The first stage of Afxentia stage race on Friday in Mantra will draw an international field of world-class racers including riders like Germany's Sabine Spitz, who will start in her first cross country competition of the year.

First round winner Fredrik Kessiakoff will be taking a break, but round one's runner-up Roel Paulissen will be the favorite in the men's race. Young Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy played a role in last year's Sunshine Cup races and will be back with his national team to challenge Paulissen.

In addition, Andreas Kugler, Karl Platt, Stefan Sahm, Karl Markt, and Jeremy Horgan Kobelski will be podium contenders. Team Bikin' Cyprus racer Christof Bischof will be on well known terrain mixing it up with the best while Belgian Björn Brems, who had bad luck in Sunday's round one from Tochni to Kalavasos, will be looking for a better result.

For European marathon and cross country champion Spitz, the Sunshine Cup is the first step on her way to Beijing. The silver medallist at the world cross country championships in 2007 is a favorite for the Olympics. She'll face off against marathon world champion Petra Henzi, who suffered two flat tires Sunday, round one winner Heather Irmiger, and young Tereza Hurikova. Eyes will be on 18 year-old Belgian Maaike Polspoel to see if she can repeat her strong effort from first round which netted her a second place.

Round two's 45km point to point race will take racers through the Macheras mountains on Friday. Saturday's second stage of the Afexentia, a 7.4km time trial, will not count for the overall Sunshine Cup although it is held on the cross country course for Sunday's race which will double as the third stage of Afxentia and the third round of the Sunshine Cup.

Sunshine Cup 2008
February 23: Tochni Village (XCP)
February 29: Mantra-Kionia-Mantra (XCP) AFXENTIA stage race #1
March 2: Mantra tou kampiou (XCO) AFXENTIA stage race #3
March 9: Voroklini (XCP)
March 16: Limassol-Yermasogia (XCO)

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